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Super Rugby Pacific: round three preview

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Super round was super, but round three throws up a few interesting storylines for the New Zealand teams in Super Rugby Pacific. Can the Crusaders bounce back from a horror start? Are the Hurricanes able to cope without Jordie Barrett? And will the rotated Chiefs be able to get the job done in Brisbane?

Moana Pasifika v Melbourne Rebels

Kickoff: Friday, 7:05

FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton

Fine Inisi of Moana Pasifika celebrates his first try during the Moana Pasifika v Melbourne Rebels.

Fine Inisi of Moana Pasifika celebrates his first try during the Moana Pasifika v Melbourne Rebels. Photo: www.photosport.nz

transplanted game is not what Moana would have wanted, but really this stands as an excellent opportunity to lock in some valuable competition points. The Rebels are capable of pulling off a result, like last weekend against the Force, but their defensive system looks about as effective as their financial planning right now. Moana will be keen to gash them as the Rebels are giving up 32 points a game already, so really it’ll come down to how well their own defence can restrict the visitors.

Moana Pasifika: 15 Danny Toala, 14 Pepesana Patafilo, 13 Henry Taefu, 12 Julian Savea, 11 Anzelo Tuitavuki, 10 William Havili, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Lotu Inisi, 7 Sione Havili Talitui (c), 6 Jacob Norris, 5 Allan Craig, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Sione Mafielo, 2 Samiuela Moli, 1 Abraham Pole

Bench: 16 Tomasi Maka, 17 Sateki Latu, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Ola Tauelangi, 20 Irie Papuni, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Christian Lealiifano, 23 Kyren Taumoefolau

Rebels: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Lachie Anderson, 13 Filipo Daugunu, 12 David Feliuai, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Rob Leota (c), 7 Vaiolini Ekuasi, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Josh Canham, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Matt Gibbon

Bench: 16 Ethan Dobbins, 17 Isaac Kailea, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Daniel Maiava, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Glen Vaihu, 23 Lukas Ripley

Waratahs v Highlanders

Kickoff: Friday, 9:35pm

Allianz Stadium, Sydney

Folau Fakatava of the Highlanders.

Folau Fakatava of the Highlanders. Photo: Derek Morrison

The Tahs head into their first game on a high, not only upsetting the Crusaders but showing that they may well have finally turned a much-needed corner in terms of cohesion. Jake Gordon and Tane Edmed looked like George Gregan and Stephen Larkham, so the assignment for the Highlanders loosies is to snuff out the Tahs’ confidence as early as they can – however, they’re going to have to do it without Billy Harmon and Sean Withy, at least not at first anyway. The pair have been benched after showing up late to a team meeting, which is pretty dumb considering Harmon is the captain.

Waratahs: 15 Max Jorgensen, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Triston Reilly, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon (c), 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Hugh Sinclair, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Angus Bell

Bench: 16 Julian Heaven, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Miles Amatosero, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Teddy Wilson, 22 Harry Wilson, 23 Mosese Tuipulotu

Highlanders: 15 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, 14 Timoci Tavatavanawai, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sam Gilbert, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Folau Fakatava, 8 Hugh Renton, 7 Nikora Broughton, 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Max Hicks, 4 Fabian Holland, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Henry Bell, 1 Ethan de Groot (c)

Bench: 16 Ricky Jackson, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Saula Ma’u, 19 Sean Withy, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 James Arscott, 22 Ajay Faleafaga, 23 Jonah Lowe

Fijian Drua v Crusaders

Kickoff: Saturday, 2:05pm

Churchill Park, Lautoka

The Burning West, The Hot Corner, The Graveyard of the Pacific – call it what you want but Churchill Park in Lautoka stands as one of the most formidable venues in the competition. The Crusaders found that out the hard way last year, another loss this weekend will almost certainly see the pitchforks getting raised because their fanbase is not at all used to being winless through three games. The Drua are coming off a loss to Moana but they certainly got their attack going late, so if they can pick up where they left off there could be a big result on the cards.

Fijian Drua: 15 Ilaisa Droasese, 14 Selestino Ravutaumada, 13 Iosefo Masi, 12 Apisalome Vota, 11 Epeli Momo, 10 Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Meli Derenalagi (c), 7 Vilive Miramira, 6 Etonia Waqa, 5 Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, 4 Mesake Vocevoce, 3 Jone Koroiduadua, 2 Tevita Ikanivere, 1 Haereiti Hetet

Bench: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Livai Natave, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, 20 Elia Canakaivata, 21 Simione Kuruvoli, 22 Kemu Valetini, 23 Junior Ratuva

Crusaders: 15 Chay Fihaki, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Levi Aumua, 12 David Havili, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Taha Kemara, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Cullen Grace, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Dominic Gardiner, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Fletcher Newell, 2 George Bell, 1 George Bower

Bench: 16 Ioane Moananu, 17 Kershawl Sykes-Martin, 18 Seb Calder, 19 Jamie Hannah, 20 Tahlor Cahill, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Jone Rova, 23 Riley Hohepa

Brumbies v Force

Kickoff: Saturday, 4:35pm

GIO Stadium, Canberra

Jeremy Williams of the Force.

Jeremy Williams of the Force. Photo: James Worsfold

The Brumbies were horrible against the Chiefs last weekend, so this stands as a good chance to get themselves back on track at home in Canberra. Their opponents are showing every sign so far that they’ll be struggling to be more than a bit part player this year, the Force reverting to type early.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Noah Lolesio,9 Ryan Lonergan (c), 8 Rob Valetini, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Darcy Swain, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Sosefo Kautai, 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 James Slipper

Bench: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Rhys Van Nek, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jahrome Brown, 21 Klayton Thorn, 22 Declan Meredith, 23 Ollie Sapsford

Force: 15 Max Burey, 14 Harry Potter, 13 Bayley Kuenzle, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Chase Tiatia, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Nic White, 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Michael Wells, 5 Jeremy Williams (c), 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Ryan Coxon

Bench: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Charlie Hancock, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tim Anstee, 20 Lopeti Faifua, 21 Ollie Callan, 22 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 23 George Poolman

Hurricanes v Blues

Kickoff: Saturday, 7:05pm

Sky Stadium, Wellington

Live blog coverage on RNZ Sport

Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax scores a try with Blues’ Caleb Clarke during the Super Rugby Pacific - Hurricanes v Blues at Sky Stadium in Wellington on the 11th March 2023. © Copyright image by Marty Melville / www.photosport.nz

Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax scores a try with Blues’ Caleb Clarke during the Super Rugby Pacific – Hurricanes v Blues at Sky Stadium in Wellington on the 11th March 2023. © Copyright image by Marty Melville / www.photosport.nz Photo: Marty Melville

The game of the round takes place in the capital on Saturday night, with a Canes outfit having to find a way to win without the suspended Jordie Barrett. It’s a tough ask anyway, given just how good the Blues were in their win last weekend against the Highlanders. Their loose forwards in particular are looking in immense form, with Hoskins Sotutu shooting out a reminder to everyone of the form that made him an All Black, while out the back Stephen Perofeta and Zarn Sullivan are running with an assured degree of freedom. There should be an intriguing battle up front, with both teams possessing impressive scrummaging capabilities. Meanwhile the Canes’ backs are capable of striking from anywhere through the counter attacking ability of Ruben Love.

Hurricanes: 15 Ruben Love, 14 Josh Moorby, 13 Billy Proctor (cc), 12 Riley Higgins, 11 Kini Naholo, 10 Brett Cameron, 9 Cam Roigard, 8 Brayden Iose, 7 Peter Lakai, 6 TK Howden, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Tucker, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua (cc), 1 Tevita Mafileo

Bench: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Pasilio Tosi, 19 Caleb Delany, 20 Devan Flanders, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 23 Salesi Rayasi

Blues: 15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (c), 6 Akira Ioane, 5 James Tucker, 4 Tom Robinson, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ofa Tuungafasi

Bench: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Jordan Lay, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Cameron Suafoa, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Stephen Perofeta

Reds v Chiefs

Kickoff: Saturday, 9:35pm

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Jeff Toomaga-Allen.

Jeff Toomaga-Allen. Photo: Malcolm Couzens

It’s almost a shame that the Reds have had two New Zealand opponents in a row, because with a little momentum, they do look like they could be a presence at the business end. Their loss to the Canes could have gone either way, but this is a tough ask against a very impressive Chiefs side. Clayton McMillan has rolled the changes, with Cortez Ratima, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Daniel Rona and Josh Ioane starting, but that just shows the depth of his squad more than anything else. Interesting addition to the Reds squad is former All Black Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who has spent the last five season playing in England and Ireland.

Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suli Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Isaac Henry, 11 Mac Grealy, 10 Tom Lyngah, 9 Tate McDermott (cc), 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (cc), 5 Ryan Smith, 4 Seru Uru, 3 Zane Nonggorr, 2 Matt Faessler, 1 Sef Fa’agase

Bench: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Cormac Daly, 20 John Bryant, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, 23 Tim Ryan

Chiefs: 15 Josh Ioane, 14 Shaun Stevenson, 13 Daniel Rona, 12 Rameka Poihipi, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Cortez Ratima, 8 Luke Jacobson (c), 7 Simon Parker, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 4 Tupou Vaa’i, 3 George Dyer, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross

Bench: 16 Tyrone Thompson, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Reuben O’Neill, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Wallace Sititi, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Josh Jacomb, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

 

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All Whites return to iconic stadium

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The All Whites will return to an iconic sporting venues with the possibility of another huge crowd.

New Zealand Football has confirmed a game against 15th ranked Mexico at the Pasadena Rosebowl in California in September.

The two sides faced each other there in 2010 in the buildup to the Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

Defender Tommy Smith made his debut in that game which was played in front of capacity 90,000 fans with Mexico winning 2-0.

It is the latest game to be confirmed as the All Whites prepare for qualification for the 2026 World Cup.

They play a mini tournament in the UAE later this month with Egypt, Croatia and Tunisia.

All Whites head coach Darren Bazeley sees the Mexico game as a great opportunity for his side to face a top opponent in a high pressure environment:

“Should we qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2026 we are going to be playing sides that are higher ranked than us and this game, especially taking place in front of a likely huge crowd which will predominately be supporting Mexico, in one of the countries the tournament will be happening in, is a brilliant test for us.

“Not many of our squad will have played in an atmosphere like we can expect to see in this game and it will give us a great taste of what the FIFA World Cup 2026 could feel like, which is no better incentive heading into our qualifying games in October and November.

“We will likely have another game still to be announced in this window but we are now in a fortunate position of having the 2024 schedule locked in with the W Cup alongside Egypt, Croatia and Tunisia this month, followed by the OFC Men’s Nations Cup in Vanuatu, Olympics in July, this game in September and FIFA World Cup qualifying in October and November.

“We want to take every step to make sure we are as prepared as possible come qualifying and this match schedule should put us in the best place to perform.”

A second fixture for the September FIFA international window is set to be confirmed and announced in due course.

New Zealand Starting Eleven. Mexico defeated New Zealand 2-0 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on March 3rd, 2010.

New Zealand Starting Eleven. Mexico defeated New Zealand 2-0 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California on March 3rd, 2010. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

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Tense day awaits in second Test as Australia chase 279

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The Black Caps have their sights on a first home test win over Australia in 31 years after claiming four wickets late on day three of the second test in Christchurch.

New Zealand hold the upper hand after reducing Australia to 77-4 in the final innings of a tense affair at Hagley Oval.

Needing 279 to sweep the series two-nil, Australia doggedly mounted a recovery before stumps after Matt Henry and Ben Sears claimed two early wickets each to have the tourists teetering at 30-4.

Mitchell Marsh (27) and Travis Head (17) survived until stumps and Australia’s last recognised batters will carry much of the weight of expectation tomorrow, with 202 runs still required.

New Zealand need six wickets to beat Australia in a home test for the first time since a victory at Eden Park in 1993.

Their last trans-Tasman test win of any sort came in Hobart in 2011.

Australia’s top order was cleaned up as Henry (2-37) and Sears (2-22) unearthed pace and movement, roared on by a vocal home crowd.

Henry, who took seven first-innings scalps, trapped Steve Smith lbw for nine to complete a disappointing series for the opener, before also removing Usman Khawaja, caught brilliantly by Tim Southee at second slip for 11.

Sears dismissed Marnus Labuschagne caught and bowled for six – having had the same batsman dropped at first slip by Daryl Mitchell in the same over – before bowling Cameron Green for five.

Earlier New Zealand were dismissed for 372, boosted by half centuries to Tom Latham, Rachin Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell.

Australian captain Pat Cummins took 4-62 while wicketkeeper Alex Carey completed five catches, giving him 10 dismissals for the match, leaving him one short of equallying the world record for a ‘keeper.

Latham added eight to his overnight score before he was caught by Carey off Cummins’ bowling for 73.

The Australians successfully reviewed after the original decision was not out, with replays showing a fine inside edge from Latham’s bat.

Ravindra (82) and Mitchell (58) combined for 123 for the fourth wicket before Mitchell was caught behind off Josh Hazlewood after striking the pace bowler for successive fours from the two previous deliveries.

Ravindra followed – also snared by Carey – off the first ball of a new Cummins spell.

Tom Blundell’s modest form with the bat continued when he struck a poor delivery from Cameron Green to cover to depart for nine.

New Zealand's Scott Kuggeleijn in action during the second Test against Australia at Hagley Oval.

New Zealand’s Scott Kuggeleijn in action during the second Test against Australia at Hagley Oval. Photo: photosport

The last three New Zealand wickets fell for one run, including Scott Kuggeleijn for a hard-hit 44 off 49 balls which helped to push the required target beyond 250.

Number eight Kuggeleijn’s knock – featuring five fours and two sixes – shifted momentum back towards the Black Caps although wickets tumbled quickly early in the final session, with both Glenn Phillips and Matt Henry dismissed for 16.

Latham believed the Black Caps were well placed.

“It’s a good day from our point of view,” Latham told TVNZ.

“We’d have taken this situation at the start of the day. We showed fight, built a couple of partnerships and did well with the ball.

“It’s a wicket where if you get it right with the new ball it can be challenging. There is bounce and movement off the wicket.

“The target is one of those where you (have a chance) if you put the opposition under pressure early. We have them four down, it will be a scrap tomorrow. The end target is to get a rare win verus Australia but there’s a lot of work to do till then.”

 

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Williamson and Southee to celebrate century of tests

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One piles up runs, the other piles up wickets. Both Kane Williamson and Tim Southee will hope to add to their hauls when they play their 100th test match against Australia in Christchurch this week.

Few New Zealand cricketers have done more for the nation as individuals, so it is fitting they will celebrate the milestone as a collective at Hagley Oval from Friday.

Not that either will be eager to soak up the attention or even betray much emotion as the Black Caps look to bounce back from defeat in Wellington.

“Although Tim and I have a bit of attention coming into this game, it’s about the team, what we need to try and do as a side and what we need to improve on,” Williamson said with a shrug.

“I don’t know (how I’ll feel). So if you see me crying then you can say, ‘I told you’.”

At 33, the mild-mannered Tauranga man is still very much in his prime.

New Zealand’s greatest batter became the fastest man to 32 test centuries in the recent series win against South Africa, and joined Don Bradman and Steve Smith as the only players to score five hundreds in five home tests in succession.

With 378 test wickets, 35-year-old captain Southee is second only to Richard Hadlee (431) in New Zealand’s all-time list and could eclipse the knighted quick in another couple of seasons.

UNDER PRESSURE

Both Southee and Williamson have led the team with distinction, the former having succeeded the latter as test captain at the end of 2022.

Williamson took New Zealand to the inaugural World Test Championship title in 2021, while the Black Caps remain unbeaten in five series under Southee.

New Zealand's Kane Williamson and Tim Southee.

New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Tim Southee. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Yet both players have arrived in Christchurch under pressure to perform against New Zealand’s long-time nemesis.

The Black Caps have won only one test in 24 against the Australians this century and were crushed by 172 runs at the Basin Reserve.

Williamson, who boasts a test batting average of 55.25 and above 80 in victory, has a middling average of 37.26 in tests against Australia.

He was run out comically for a duck in Wellington after clattering into opener Will Young and later caught for nine in a leg-side trap against wily spinner Nathan Lyon.

Southee, who has also tended to struggle against Australia, had two wickets in the series-opener and left New Zealand’s capital under fire over his bowling changes in the first innings when Cameron Green got away with an unbeaten century.

New Zealand will likely need at least one of Southee or Williamson to fire, and probably both, if they are to have any chance of squaring the two-test series against an Australian team rated among the best the nation has produced.

Williamson will lean on his 99 previous tests for inspiration, both the highlights and the harsh lessons.

“It’s never a perfect journey,” he said.

“The learning – physically, mentally – the reflection, the memories of almost every test that when you sit down and dissect it, there’s so much that you do recall.

“But it’s a journey, and the highlights aren’t there without the other.”

-Reuters

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